UK - Fears that the Pensions Bill may be delayed or dropped increased Following work and pensions secretary Andrew Smith's shock resignation on Monday.
Smith quit amid speculation of a feud with prime minister Tony Blair over deep cuts in the incapacity benefit budget.
Smith ñ who is seen as a close ally of chancellor Gordon Brown - claimed his decision would enable him to spend more time with his family.
But the timing of his departure has sparked fears that the Bill, which is due to receive Royal Assent in November, will no longer make it on to the statute books.
There were already concerns that Blair’s plans to placate backbenchers by rushing through a Bill to ban hunting would leave little time for other legislation, including the Pensions Bill.
Conservative pensions spokesman Nigel Waterson said: “If they want to drive through the hunting Bill, something else is going to be dropped. The Pensions Bill is so much of a mess that it is almost irretrievable, so they may use that as an excuse to drop it.”
But the National Association of Pension Funds warned the government that any delay would infuriate the industry.
Chairman Terry Faulkner said: “You cannot play petty politics with one of the most important social issues of the day. Our pensioners and future pensioners deserve a real commitment from the government.”
He added: “We need to have a secretary of state in place as soon as possible. The last time we were without one it created a blight on planning.”
EEF deputy director of employment policy David Yeandle agreed.
“There is a lot of concern. The government should be getting this Bill through as quickly as possible because meeting the April 2005 deadline is already challenging. Any further delay would cause major problems.”
Key provisions of the Bill include the establishment of the Pension Protection Fund and the abolition of the minimum funding requirement.
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Former BHS owner Dominic Chappell has lost the appeal against his section 72 conviction and sentence for failing to hand over information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
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Lesley Titcomb says the watchdog wants closer interactions with pension funds to spot problems sooner and act before having to use its more stringent powers